Has Human Evolution Stopped?

possan (CC)

possan (CC)

We’re screwing with our own nature as well as that of many other species and the Earth itself, with unpredictable consequences. Matt Ridley offers his opinion on what that might mean in the Wall Street Journal:

If you write about genetics and evolution, one of the commonest questions you are likely to be asked at public events is whether human evolution has stopped. It is a surprisingly hard question to answer.

I’m tempted to give a flippant response, borrowed from the biologist Richard Dawkins: Since any human trait that increases the number of babies is likely to gain ground through natural selection, we can say with some confidence that incompetence in the use of contraceptives is probably on the rise (though only if those unintended babies themselves thrive enough to breed in turn).

More seriously, infertility treatment is almost certainly leading to an increase in some kinds of infertility. For example, a procedure called “intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection” allows men with immobile sperm to father children. This is an example of the “relaxation” of selection pressures caused by modern medicine. You can now inherit traits that previously prevented human beings from surviving to adulthood, procreating when they got there or caring for children thereafter. So the genetic diversity of the human genome is undoubtedly increasing.

Or it was until recently. Now, thanks to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, parents can deliberately choose to implant embryos that lack certain deleterious mutations carried in their families, with the result that genes for Tay-Sachs, Huntington’s and other diseases are retreating in frequency. The old and overblown worry of the early eugenicists—that “bad” mutations were progressively accumulating in the species—is beginning to be addressed not by stopping people from breeding, but by allowing them to breed, safe in the knowledge that they won’t pass on painful conditions…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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29 Comments on "Has Human Evolution Stopped?"

  1. The human brain is undergoing a degradation of its structure and overall size. 

  2. The human experience is in danger

  3. Anarchy Pony | May 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    Short answer: No. Long answer: Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. Evolution never stops.

    • Well actually evolution does stop, it’s called extinction. Will evolution stop for mankind?
      Based upon current patterns of behaviour with psychopaths as the puppet masters and narcissist celebrities guiding the development of human society with no regard for the future of humanity just the immediate ego gratification of the puppet masters and the celebrities, well, human evolution is likely to come to a short ugly and brutal end.

    • Sirius Fnord | May 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

      Well said, me thinks we’re about ready for the next jump, caused by some extreme event, not sure which as the probability machine is still taking psychic votes from the species.


    • Jin The Ninja | May 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

      i call chrono, lumo- and umbral kinesis, with some room to develop psycho-kinesis.

  4. JohnFrancisBittrich | May 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    gotta make way for the homo superior.

  5. DeepCough | May 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    Well, natural selection has for all intents and purposes has stopped. Artificial selection is a different story.

  6. Oh if Charles Darwin could see the world now…

  7. you have mental problems if you think the Human race is doomed.

    “Do you think that the amoeba ever dreamed that it would evolve into the
    frog? Of course it didn’t. And when that first frog shimmied out of the
    water and employed its vocal cords in order to attract a mate or to
    retard a predator, do you think that that frog ever imagined that that
    incipient croak would evolve into all the languages of the world, into
    all the literature of the world? Of course it fucking didn’t. And just
    as that froggy could never possibly have conceived of Shakespeare, so we
    can never possibly imagine our destiny.”

    “There’s a long way to go, only now we’re not going to sprout extra
    limbs and wings because evolution itself is evolving. When it comes, the
    apocalypse itself will be part of the process of that leap of
    By the very definition of apocalypse, mankind must cease to
    exist, at least in a material form.
    We’ll evolve into something that transcends matter, into a species of
    pure thought. Are you with me?”

    • Calypso_1 | May 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |

      …could we not think that the frog (or at least the planaria) was of the amoebae’s dreaming? 
      I’m listening to a whole chorus of frogs outside my window and within there are sonnets aplenty.

    • Anarchy Pony | May 26, 2012 at 1:28 am |

      You are in some serious denial if you think humanity isn’t in some serious fucking trouble.

    • howiebledsoe | May 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

      We already are. Our bodies, wheather frog or human, is a mere shell for the eternal energy that always has and always will swirl around the universe.

  8. evolution for humans is not perceptible, just because our short life span, but research in stem cells have a good chance to change this experience.

  9. Colony Room | May 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm |

     The only thing that has ever driven Evolution is the simplest thing: “What?”

    Not necessarily a conscious question, but a primitive feeling (primitive in ways we cant understand). 
    Somehow the One came to exist, First there was matter, being thrown about before any kind of plant or animal came to life. Those plants and animals came from the random materials crashing into each other. All three of these things (plants, animals, physical matter) are collectively part of the All, which itself is of this Universe, The universe is obviously, nothing else but these things.

    From The All aka the One aka the Universe, came the simple … notion; What?
    Think of the first living thing in the One.
    Likely many “whats” were “felt” for millions of years while the animal became more and more complex.

    Maybe to experience What a little further, a new trait came about. For
    example, maybe here on Earth the first eyeballs where developed in order
    for the One to experience itself a little further. Those eyeballs were likely evolved due to the notion of space around the animal, and the animal having the sense of “What?”. And with this new sense, more primitive “whats” would emerge. From those Whats would come more and more senses, always able to answer the unending “whats”. Eventually, here on earth, all the animals experiencing the world in ever more complex ways would give rise to ever more complex creatures, and eventually us human beings.

    Should humanity survive, we will continue to ask more questions “What is this” or “What is up there in space?” and if we do it long enough, we will evolve in ways that will answer those question. Because, after all, we are part of the One, and the All has so far, to my observation, only ever tried to experience itself in every way its various brains and senses allow it to.

    From the One came the All. All is One, One is All.

  10. Technology will push us to the next level. Read Kurzweil’s book on The Singularity.

    • Jin The Ninja | May 27, 2012 at 11:41 am |

      transhumanism is interesting as an idea, but it would fully remove humanity from our relationship with nature, which in our current technocratic, resource-exploitation driven paradigm is not desireable. perhaps after we’ve socially evolved, but not before.

      • Fuck nature, robotic bodies and computer brains FTW!

        • Jin The Ninja | Jun 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm |

           well as i said, do you think the plebs will recieve robotic brains? implants, perhaps, to aide in the efficiency of our manual or technical or repetive labour. but certainly in a hierarchichal world that embraces trans human ideology – it would be those that could pay ‘fair market value’ that would recieve enhanced perceptive, analytical and neurological technologies.

  11. I AM evolving. So are you!

  12. Bananarchist | Jul 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm |

    >one of the commenest questions

    Wall Street Journal is high quality literature, yes?

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